Nigerian actor and musician, Professor Bob Ejike just returned from Dubai after a successful concert and has opened a magazine in Lagos. In this exclusive interview, Bill Achusim spoke with him on his music, films, writing, and his sojourn in Italy, Uganda and Dubai.
Prof. Ejike, tell us about your new establishment NATIONAL EDIFICE MAGAZINE.
The National Edifice Magazine is the latest entrant into the Nigerian tabloid industry. It is the result of a collaboration between Prof. Bob Ejike and a group of corporate entities that include Free Energy Resources, Mustard seed and Emerald park farm, among others.
The magazine is interested in the environment, aesthetics, architecture, horticulture, personalities, profiles of personalities who embellish and beautify our city and enhance our economy. Titbits, news, reality and truth. These are the areas the National Edifice is involved in because I saw the loopholes in the system which am about to fill. I have been writing since I was 14 years for the Drum Magazine, where I shared the Short Story page with Ben Okri, winner of the Commonwealth Price for Literature. I have written massively prior to writing the script that started the Nigerian film revolution which I call Nollywood. In the course of my writing, I did write the first Nigerian film on video which won the NAFEST Award in 1982 and launched great stars like Richard Mofe-Damijo, (RMD). I have also written for important Nigerian newspapers like The Sun where I worked as an International Correspondent and Columnist. I also worked in other journals. I have written and published novels like Weapons of Biafra, The Ambassador and two of my novels await publication. Few of my fans who have been watching my Nollywood films and my intervention in music industry realize that I am a university lecturer and a trained writer.
When did you decide to start publishing the National Edifice Magazine?
The decision to publish a property magazine that deals with the environment was not mine, but I do recall sometime over a year ago, the directors of Free Energy Resources Nigeria Ltd proposed the opening of such a magazine in conjunction with me. Initially, I declined because the last thing I wanted to publish was another property magazine. It took a lot of time to agree on the kind of thing that I want to publish. I want to publish a magazine that I would want not just to pick up from an office reception, but a magazine that I can buy from the vendor and be sure that it covers the general interest areas of the society. Sports, fashion, celebrity, religion, marriage, history, politics, religion, profiles, etcetera. Again, I was not certain that I was the proper candidate for this appointment, because my exposure to the arts, journalism inclusive has been generic rather than specific. I started working as a freelance journalist at the age of 14. Even though I was just a kid, I was contributing monthly to Drum Magazine, sharing the Short Story page with Ben Okri. At the same time, I was editing the Poetry Column of the Democrat Newspaper. I later started writing for the Daily Star in Enugu before my literally services were required by the growing radio drama industry. I began scripting for ABS Radio Enugu, Radio Plateau, Jos, Radio Television Kaduna, NTA Port Harcourt, NTA Benin, from which I got the major break that won me the NAFEST Award and then Nollywood followed, but before Nollywood, I was and I am the father of Nollywood. Nollywood is my baby. Before Nollywood I was writing and acting on Basi and Co, the national soap opera that was being produced by Ken Saro-Wiwa of blessed memory. In Italy, where my quest for knowledge took me, I worked for Del Lavore Publishers on the side while lecturing at university. I was also writing for the Trans Atlantic Times of Washington DC. When I returned to Nigeria, I started contributing to Daily Times and This Day. I joined my mentor Louis Odion at The Sun at their onset, running their column Klieg Lights for some years. Much of the rest of my time I spent writing books, making Nollywood films, composing and recording music, modelling, presenting NTA’s Tropical Rhythms, voicing adverts, and facing the difficult task of trying to make a dignified living out of all these artistic efforts. It took about one year for me to be convinced that all these were the experiences required for the post of Editor-In-Chief of the National Edifice Magazine.
You just came back from across Africa, tell us about it?
Actually, I just came back from Dubai UAE. I had a ground breaking show in Dubai titled LEGEND CONCERT – BOB EJIKE LIVE IN DUBAI, in the famous Garage Night Club. Pasuma Wonder, Timaya etc have been hosted there. Generally, I am an ambassador of Nigerian culture, all embedded in my music. I was in East Africa for six years, Uganda precisely. I was living in Kampala, where I ran over four studios and a visual studio.(PROBE) Professor Bob Ejike Foundation For Performing Arts. I was enticed by the young local talent and I was able to expose them. Most people there did not know about Nigerian music, art and culture. Most people there did not know about Fela. In the course of my stay, I began to construct structures, social bridges that traversed East and West Africa, leading to the introduction of Nollywood en-mass. 2face Idibia, Psquare, Danfo Drivers and many other great Nigerian artistes and groups. I also got involved in the Ugawood Project, under the able leadership of the Honourable General Elly Tumwine, one of Uganda’s national heroes. This project was geared towards creating an indigenous film culture in the vein of Nollywood. I was also privileged to travel widely in East Africa, relishing the culinary prowess, interacting with very civilized people and enjoying an African setting where things worked without corruption being over played. I also enjoyed the company of some of the most beautiful women in the world.
Tell us about your music, your new album?
On The Radio, my latest musical effort is the odyssey of the Nigerian artiste, who comes from his village with talent, great hope in mind and enthusiasm, just to meet an industry full of huddles. Whether he will succeed or not depends on his ability to jump these huddles. I have survived three generations of Nigerian music. I started music with The Reverend Chris Okotie, Jide obi, Lover Boy-Felix liberty, Chris Mba, Tina Onwudiwe, and I am the last man standing. I am the last member of my generation that is still relevant in the Nigerian music industry. I am the survivor, the father, the boss, the Baba, and all Nigerian artistes are my children. I am the one who gave Nigeria Nollywood and the one who broke walls for others to pass. I am the most experienced hip hop artiste in the field. All these things I have been saying, have been packaged into an album called ON THE RADIO. I have been told that you don’t have to make sense in the Nigerian music industry. I have also been told that mediocrity is the order of the day, repeat one word, pick somebody’s rhythm. All the artistes have been using one word which has been used over and over again. My producer Erons B is just 22. I will not condescend to those levels. I have always been faithful to my understanding of music, of the noble concept of music and art. On The Radio has songs like Darijimi, Do me Do me, Givam To Me, I Am A Man, We Dey Go, Does Your Mama Know, Cry, Yaga Yaga, All Through The Night and Egwu Oma.
Tell us how you want to penetrate the market with your new projects?
I am a very young man at heart. Though physically otherwise. I think at heart I am younger than Wizkid. I am easily bored by any enterprise that is not physically challenging. Throughout my professional life, I have always had at least three jobs at a time. In literature, music and the academia. I know that am not getting any younger, but my fans, I have over 50 millions fans, around Africa, especially East Africa, The Middle East, Nigeria and Diaspora. You see, I was born to win.
In your years of travelling abroad, you’ve had a number of concerts. Can you please tell us about the most exciting ones?
My most exciting concerts were done here in Nigeria at the very beginning of my music career. I did a show in Uniport that was sponsored by the British Council. I have also performed at the French Cultural Centre, at the German Goethe Institute with Tunde Kuboye and the Extended Family Jazz Band. I still have nostalgic memories of my rehearsals with Chris Okotie, performances with Jide Obi, Dizzy K Falola, Daniel Wilson, Lover Boy-Felix Liberty, Mandy Brown Ojugbana, Sweat, etc. More uproarious, more breathtaking, were the more recent shows especially those abroad, in Italy, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Dubai. I particularly love to recall my concerts in Uganda with Aki and Paw-Paw, our tallest comedians. We had an audience of over 250,000 strong in Kampala and Jinga, superseding international celebrities like Akon.
Where can we find your music?
In the internet, the Nigerian music websites. I think my music is in about 150,000 websites. That is the easiest way to find it for streaming and download. Just Google Bob Ejike. You can find my videos in Alaba mix, about twenty-six selections were released recently in Alaba market, Lagos, in virtual collaboration with the best of Nigerian artistes. Get your copy now.
One man, so many talents. Is it a blessing or a curse?
It would be a declaration of ingratitude to God if I call it anything but a blessing. Sometimes however, I ask myself why can’t other people hear this music that is playing continuously in the silences. Why can’t I rest, just rest.
What is your message to your fans?
Never wait or hesitate. Get into it before it is too late. You may never get another chance. It is not original, I borrowed it from another rocker, Rod Stewart in his song Maggie May. But from me to you, never give up on your dreams. He who has the gold makes the rules, keep digging.